Students in grade 5 are finishing up a research unit on a pet theme. As a starter, I read a few pet shelter-related excerpts from Gaby Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes. We talked about using key words and how being specific helps improve your search results. (I used this Common Sense Media lesson). First students used WorldBook and Searchasaurus on Askri.org to find general information about pets. Then, they worked in groups to generate their own question about pets and used the Google search engine to answer the question. This was much more difficult than I thought it would be. It turns out, based on a writing reflection on the unit, that many students felt the same. Over half of the students said it was harder than they thought to find information on Google. One student said, "Finding information using Google is really hard. We looked forever, and couldn't find our answer." Another student commented, "It was a little harder than I thought because of our question and all of the websites." And finally, "you had to use very specific words and even then it had random results." The unit turned out to be a lesson in adaptation. Many groups ended up changing their original question so that they could get the information they needed. And while I pushed askri.org and other sources so that students turn to those sources first when they go to middle school, I think the Google search helped students to realize the vast information landscape that is out there. Now, students are presenting their information by doing a television-style interview with their group. Despite their challenges finding information quickly, they were able to answer their questions and are having fun creatively sharing that with their peers. As a final end of year project, students will create their own adoption advertisement for a pet using the online flyer website, smore.com.
-Suzanne Jordan, K-5 library teacher